There is solid reasoning for people saying, "your life will be forever changed" as soon as you announce your pregnancy. Your "parent" friends start to tell you all sorts of anecdotal warnings and cautions while you still dreamily bask in the joy of New Parenthood. No matter how much one tries to prepare oneself, reality doesn't truly set in until one is on the other side of it. I've been on that side of it now for about a decade, and here is my #TopTen list of You-Know-You're-a-Parent-When:
10. When you
9. When you grumpily give away your last bite of favorite food as your child looks longingly at
8. When you repeatedly experience Every Parent's Pain: that you'd trade places with your sick child in a heartbeat. Because it would actually be less painful that way than to watch your child in that miserable state. #WishfulThinking
7. When you realize that you're in for a Lifetime of Worry. Of course, these worries change over time, from religiously counting constipated non-poopy days to the first bus ride to the first date, but then continues onto your own children's parenthood trials and midlife crises. #AFatefulAbyss
6. When your subconscious daily goal is Finding Balance in everything: helicopter parenting vs free range parenting; attachment parenting vs Babywise parenting; organic-no-sugar-no-artificial-anything diet vs chips-candy-cookies-fastfood-pop diet; structure vs flexibility; drills vs creativity; Tiger Mom vs Ostrich Mom... etc. The list can go on and on. #ModerationIsKey
5. When you start feeling guilty about the undesirable genes you've passed down to your progeny, be it your migraines, allergies, or you-name-it condition/disorder/syndrome. This is not something you actually think about when you wanted to start a family, but the power of DNA is undeniably unforgiving. #UncannyResemblanceToAFault
4. When you stop dreaming for yourself and start dreaming for your children. There comes a time when Focus invariably shifts, possibly in the form of setting up a college fund or helping to choose your child's high school or college courses. It also happens to coincide with the time you begin to feel old. (Read my poem, Shifted, on this topic--go ahead, it's only 33 words long.) #TheGivingTreeInRealLife
3. When you realize that your Parental Affects are more universal than those you instinctively have for your own children: that you hurt when any children hurt, and that you smile when any child is happy. You grasped it in the horror of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and you felt it in the laughter of children--whom you don't even know--celebrating a birthday on a picnic blanket at the park. #YourBadgeOfHonor
2. When you realize what being a Role Model means: "be the person you want your child to be." This is when you learn to shut your potty mouth, start to demonstrate acts of kindness and expressions of empathy, and actively become an upstanding citizen of the community. Because you want your children to do the same and hope that they will share their lives with equally compassionate people in the future. #DoAsIDo
1. And--for better or for worse--when you come to the conclusion that parenting doesn't get easier. You keep thinking that when your child reaches this milestone or that age, that things will get easier. Well, they'll continue to throw you curve balls and give you unexpected surprises--they're good at that. New challenges arise when old obstacles fade, and better battles are fought when previous conflicts are put to rest. As soon as you get your sleep back from New Parenthood, you will no doubt begin to lose sleep over other things, namely every miniscule-tiny-little-teensy-weensy-itty-bitty detail about them, which makes you wonder why you ever wanted to become parents in the first place. But the truth is: easier doesn't always mean better, and that we're all on this path of Parenthood to continually find improvement within ourselves for our children.
And it's a challenge for a lifetime.
So, Dear Parent-When, I should denote you as Version 1.0 because you are my first #TopTen on this topic. There will be others down the road, since, like I said, I'm in this for life. So of course you shall allow me the opportunity to
Care to share your Parent-Whens?